Speaking of reference books . . .


I just came across the lapsed bloglet Zimmer’s Words of the Week, which appears to have been abandoned some time in April. The archives are full of good stuff, though, much of it from the wonderful Erin‘s Weird and Wonderful books. Consider, for example,

bouffage [boo-FAHG]
a filling meal. From an Old French word glossed in the OED with a quote from Cotgrave as ‘any meat that (eaten greedily) fills the mouth, and makes the cheeks to swell; cheeke-puffing meat.’ (Weird & Wonderful Word of the Week, 2/21/08)
petrichor [PET-rih-kor]
the pleasant smell that sometimes accompanies rain, especially the first rain after a period of warm dry weather. (Weird & Wonderful Word of the Week, 1/10/08)
semordnilap [sem-ORD-nih-lap]
a word that spells a different word when written backwards (“semordnilap” is “palindromes” spelled backwards). “Drawer” is a semordnilap, because backwards it spells reward. If this makes you uneasy, you might have aibohphobia, ‘fear of palindromes.’ (Weird & Wonderful Word of the Week, 4/10/08)

And a word that I find useful far more often than I would like,

igry [IG ree]
painfully embarrassed by someone else’s poor behavior. It can also be used to describe someone else’s poor behavior. This word was invented by John Chaneski, Peter Gordon, Kevin West, and Francis Heaney, in part because they were annoyed by the -gry puzzle. The -gry puzzle (“Apart from angry and hungry, what other common English word ends in -gry?”) is a broken puzzle — until igry, there was not another common word in English that ended in -gry. (And I suppose igry is not actually common yet.) The original puzzle was most likely something like “Think of words ending in -gry. Angry and hungry are two of them. What is the third word in the English language? You use it every day, and if you were listening carefully, I’ve just told you what it is.” That puzzle is trying to get you to say language (i.e., the third word in the phrase “the English language”) but someone broke it, and the broken version has been circulating on the Internet ever since. The Igry Men, avid puzzlers, decided to invent a new -gry word, so that when they were asked about the broken puzzle, they could say “Oh, it’s igry, I thought everyone knew that word!” Perhaps someday everyone will. (Weird & Wonderful Word of the Week, 8/16/07)

A few nice ones not from Erin’s books are

Boob McNutt
n. [protagonist of eponymous comic strip (1915–34) created by cartoonist Rube Goldberg] a foolish or crazy person. — used derisively. (Am. Slang Word of the Week, 1/31/08)
button man
n. informal, a hired killer. (NOAD Word of the Week, 1/31/08)
n. money. Also variants: gheetas, geetas, geedus. [Origin unknown.] (Am. Slang Word of the Week, 10/11/07)
liquid death
n. cheap, powerful liquor. Joc. Also: liquid crime. 1862 “E. Kirke” Among Pines 228: “Mine host” and two assistants were dispensing “liquid death,” at the rate of ten cents a glass. (Am. Slang Word of the Week, 9/13/07)
n. Und. and Hobo. an itinerant umbrella mender, tinker or pitchman; a repairer or deviser of small, cheap contrivances; (hence) (used among tramps, etc., as a vague term of opprobrium); a no-account. (Am. Slang Word of the Week, 9/27/07)
n. the action of obtaining something: “their protests serve no purpose and will only make their obtention of a diploma almost impossible.” ORIGIN: early 17th cent.: French, or from late Latin, obtentio(n-), from obtinere, ‘obtain, gain.’ (NOAD Word of the Week, 9/6/07)

So, a question: If alexithymia is “a disorder in which the sufferer is unable to recognize emotions or express them” (Weird & Wonderful Word of the Week, 9/13/07), then what would you call what I have—a disorder in which the sufferer is unable to recognize emoticons or express them?

I mean, aside from elderliness.

Photo: Dictionaries by jovike / John Keogh; some rights reserved.

3 thoughts on “Speaking of reference books . . .

  1. Wouldn’t that be semiothymagnosia?

    I think Homer called them ‘semiothymes’ in the Iliad. e.g.

    Wounded Eurypylus made answer, “Noble Patroclus, there is no hope left for the Achaeans but they will perish at their ships. :( All they that were princes among us are lying struck down and wounded at the hands of the Trojans, who are waxing stronger and stronger. :o “

  2. I first began using email in 1992, at my job; I didn’t get net access and a home email address until late 1993. For a while, I resisted using emoticons. I felt my job was to make my meaning known through the words themselves. I didn’t perceive any inherent deficit in email’s ability to make irony or humor clear that wouldn’t have been evident in all other written forms of communication for the past couple of millennia.

    Then in early 1995, one of my fellow Simpsons geeks came up with this: (/) It expresses the arms and steepled fingers of Mr. Burns and was my friend’s way to say, in brief, “Eeeeexcellent.” And my resolve crumbled. Even my then-girlfriend expressed shock when, soon after, I dropped a ;) into a note to her.

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